U.S. EPA Assesses Sunken, Leaking Marine Vessels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) continues its response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma in close coordination with federal, commonwealth, territory, and local partners. EPA remains focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health as well as the safety of those in the affected areas.

“Our role is to assist both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to minimize environmental damage from boats leaking gasoline, fuel or other contaminants,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “We are doing this in a way that respects the vessel owner’s rights while still protecting people from spills and hazardous substances that might be onboard the vessels.”

Marine Vessels Recovery Operations

EPA is supporting Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. Coast Guard in marine vessel recovery work. Teams continue to locate, assess and retrieve sunken, damaged and derelict vessels around Puerto Rico and the USVI.  We are also assisting with the recycling and disposal of recovered oil and hazardous materials from the vessels.

The U.S. EPA’s support role includes recording the vessel’s location and collecting information such as the name of the vessel and identification number, condition, impact to surrounding areas and/or sensitive/protected habitats (e.g. mangroves, coral reefs) for future recovery missions and owner notifications.  A higher priority is placed on vessels found to be actively leaking fuel or hazardous materials, where containment and absorbent booms are placed to decrease contamination.

Once the damaged vessels are brought to shore, or are processed on a staging barge, EPA will be handling various hazardous materials for recycling and disposal, including petroleum products (oil, gas or diesel fuel), batteries, and e-waste, which can harm the environment if they’re not removed from the waters. EPA will also recycle or dispose of any “household hazardous wastes”, such as cleaners, paints or solvents and appliances from the vessels. It is important to properly dispose of these items to prevent contamination to the aquatic ecosystem.

Vessels are being tagged by assessment teams with a sticker requesting that owners contact the U.S. Coast Guard to either report their vessel’s removal, or to request U.S. Coast Guard assistance in its removal. There is no cost, penalty or fine associated with the removal of the vessels.

As of November 16, 2017,

  • 340 vessels were identified as being impacted in Puerto Rico
  • 589 vessels were identified as being impacted in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The effects of an spills from marine vessels will depend on a variety of factors including, the quantity and type of liquid (i.e., fuel, oil) spilled, and how it interacts with the marine environment. Prevailing weather conditions will also influence the liquid’s physical characteristics and its behaviour. Other key factors include the biological and ecological attributes of the area; the ecological significance of key species and their sensitivity to pollution as well as the time of year. It is important to remember that the clean-up techniques selected will also have a bearing on the environmental effects of a spill.

CHAR Technologies Ltd. LOI for Acquisition of The Altech Group and Private Placement to Support Advanced Biomass Fuel

CHAR Technologies Ltd. (“CHAR“) (TSX VENTURE:YES) recently announced that it has signed a non-binding letter of intent (“LOI“) to acquire the Altech Group (“Altech“), which is comprised of Altech Environmental Consulting Ltd. and Altech Technologies Systems Inc. Altech provides solutions to environmental engineering challenges.  Founded in 1986, Altech has 12 employees and a diverse and stable client base.  Under the terms of the LOI, CHAR would acquire all issued equity in Altech.  Altech shareholders would receive $950,000 in common shares of CHAR, with the number of common shares anticipated to be determined using the 30-day volume weighted average price of the CHAR common shares prior to November 17th, 2017, as well as $150,000 in cash.  In connection with closing, CHAR will institute an employee retention plan where current non-shareholder Altech employees will be issued an aggregate of $100,000 of common shares (the “Equity Grant“) at a price determined in accordance with the policies of the TSXV over a period of 13 months with any unvested grants to terminate should the relevant employee cease to be employed by Altech. Closing is anticipated to take place on or before December 31, 2017.

Bill White, Chairman of CHAR stated that, “The acquisition of the Altech Group would add over 30 years of experience in environmental technologies and professional engineering consulting” and that “Altech would provide CHAR with a growth catalyst to move much of our engineering design in-house, while at the same time would allow us to greatly expand our technology solutions offering for industrial clean air and clean water.”

CHAR brings the shareholders of Altech a succession plan and an opportunity to realize value at an optimal time. According to Alexander Keen, Founder and CEO of Altech, “CHAR would bring an exciting new technology and a corporate development team. Our joint efforts going forward would bring tremendous opportunities”.

It is anticipated that the new joint enterprise will have a tremendous advantage in commercialization of a new cleantech solid fuel branded “CleanFyre”. This new product is a GHG neutral coal replacement, generically referred to as biocoal. CleanFyre will allow large industrial customers the ability to greatly reduce their GHG emissions without significant capital expenditures. According to Andrew White, CEO of CHAR, “CleanFyre would leverage both Altech’s experience and expertise, and CHAR’s platform pyrolysis technology, the same technology used to create SulfaCHAR, to create a solution with strong market pull and significant growth opportunity.”

The completion of CHAR’s acquisition of Altech is subject to the satisfaction of various conditions, including the negotiation of a definitive agreement and the completion of the parties respective due diligence. Although CHAR anticipates that the transaction with Altech will be consummated, the LOI is non-binding and there is no certainty that the transaction will be consummated.

CHAR is also launching a non-brokered private placement of common shares that will raise capital to support the continued commercialization of SulfaCHAR as well as CleanFyre. The offering will consist of a minimum of $250,000 and a maximum of $1,000,000. Pricing will be $0.21 per common share or, $0.25 per share for investors who wish to acquire flow-through common shares pursuant to the offering. The private placement is anticipated to close on or about December 31st, 2017.

About CHAR

CHAR is in the business of producing a proprietary activated charcoal like material (“SulfaCHAR“), which can be used to removed hydrogen sulfide from various gas streams (focusing on methane-rich and odorous air). The SulfaCHAR, once used for the gas cleaning application, has further use as a sulfur-enriched biochar for agricultural purposes (saleable soil amendment product).

Asbestos & Disaster Relief Precautions

By Alison Grimes, MAA Center

2017 has proven to be an unfortunate memorable year of natural disasters.  Across the globe, countries including Afghanistan, China, Colombia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Asia, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and more, have all suffered heartache and destruction as a result of natural disasters.

The United States even experienced the hardship of more than 50 separate weather, climate and flood disasters, above the 10-year average of 45 disasters.  With hundreds and thousands of lives affected, fast action and relief saves lives. However, although quick relief is important, safety and health should not be taken for granted.

Aerial view of flood damage from Hurricane Harvey (Photo Credit: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle)

Disaster Relief Precautions

Following a natural disaster, first responders, insurance adjusters, and contractors are called upon to re-build or repair damage in the home or workplace.  To ensure safety with relief and reconstruction, the following precautions and best practices will ensure good health and well-being, long after a natural disaster.

Asbestos

While managing flood recovery and other natural disaster reconstruction, asbestos is not often thought of.  Although entirely natural, asbestos is very harmful to health, leading to cancer such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and more.  There is no safe level of asbestos exposure and once asbestos fibers are consumed by way of inhalation or ingestion, health concerns can develop anywhere between 10-50 years later.  Therefore, it is important to consider the age of a structure before performing a repair.

Flood Damage Asbestos Abatement (Photo Credit: Patriot Abatement Services)

Asbestos use was widespread during the early 1930s with heightened use during the mid to late 1970s throughout the 1980s.  Its fire-resistant properties, abundance and malleability made it a popular additive in many products used in construction such as tiling, insulation, cements, caulking, heating ducts, roofing, siding, drywall and more.  When such products or materials that contain asbestos are properly encapsulated or enclosed, they will not pose harm to health, however in the case of natural disasters and water damage, the risks of being exposed to asbestos increase as a result.

 Mold

Natural disaster relief zones are breeding grounds for mold, which can begin to develop in as little as 48 hours.  Similar to asbestos, mold is often forgotten about during repairs and disaster relief.  When mold forms, spores enter the air and are easily inhaled, causing skin, eye and nasal passage irritation, wheezing and respiratory health concerns.  Considering the harm associated with mold exposure, it is essential to first dry any wet, humid or damp areas to prevent mold growth.  Additionally, any existing mold should be remediated by a specialist to ensure that all mold spores are eradicated. Control and prevent mold growth by limiting humidity levels, fixing leaky roofs, windows and pipes, cleaning and drying wet areas, and ensuring proper shower, laundry and cooking area ventilation.

 Awareness and training are two essential steps to ensure successful and safe, disaster relief.  However, asbestos and mold are only two concerns to be mindful of,  as lead, silica, PCBs, particulate matter and other hazardous building materials pose great harm to health as well.  Moreover, first responders and all others called upon during disaster relief, must prioritize self-care techniques to prevent burnout and secondary traumatic stress.

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About the Author

Alison Grimes is a Health Advocate at the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Centre (MAA Center).  The MAA Center is an independent group working to help mesothelioma patients, caregivers, advocates, and others looking to learn more about the disease.

U.S. Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Establish Renewable Chemicals Tax Credit

Two U.S. senators recently introduced a Bill in Congress, called the Renewable Chemicals Act 2017 (S. 1080) which aims to establish a short-term tax credit for the production of renewable chemicals and for investment in renewable chemical production facilities.  If enacted, the legislation would allow chemical manufacturers to claim a production credit equal to $0.15 per pound of bio-based content of each renewable chemical produced.  In lieu of the production credit, companies would be able to claim an investment credit equal to 30 percent of the basis of any eligible property that is part of a renewable chemical production facility.

Proponents of the Bill believe that the tax incentives will spur research, development, and production of renewable chemicals from biomass and also result in the investment in renewable chemical production facilities.  Applicants for the tax credit would be evaluated on job creation, innovation, environmental benefits, commercial viability and contribution to U.S. energy independence.

ASL wins pollution response vessel orders

ASL Shipyards in Singapore has won a contract to build three pollution response vessels, whose design leans heavily on escort tug architecture. Western Canada Marine Response Corp ordered the three response vessels to protect Canada’s west coast.

ASL Spill Response Vessel

The vessels will increase offshore spill response capabilities for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. ASL will build these vessels to Robert Allan’s BRAvo 2500 design, which uses elements of the naval architect’s experience in designing escort tugs.

These 25 m vessels will be pollution response platforms custom-designed to meet the formidable environmental conditions and demanding requirements of Canada’s west coast.

They will act as a mothership to other smaller vessels during the response to spills, and be capable of deploying containment equipment, transferring components between vessels, and will store oil in internal tanks or offload oil into barges.

These vessels will have Caterpillar C9.3 main engines and two Caterpillar C4.4 service generator sets. They will be classed by Lloyd’s Register and built to meet Transport Canada requirements.

Robert Allan worked on the design of these vessels, including the use of computational fluid dynamics, since the start of this year. It used its designs for the RAstar series of offshore escort tugs for the hull form and hull sponsons. The vessels will have large bilge keels, twin skegs and a bulbous bow.

For oil containment, they will have Kepner self-inflating offshore booms stored on a large powered reel and a Current Buster 4 sweep system. BRAvo 2500 vessels will have an aft swim platform that allows easy access to the water surface for recovering and deploying equipment with the vessel’s crane.

 

Canada: Remediation of Abandoned Mine Sites in Manitoba will take 24 Years

As reported in the Winnipeg Free Press, abandoned mine sites at Lynn Lake and near Leaf Rapids, Manitoba will need to have their wastewater treatment plants operating for the next 24 years to clean up the contamination.  The estimated cost of the running the plants is $62 million over the time frame.  These assertions can be found in Manitoba’s annual public accounts report.

Mines and other developments across the province have left a trail of contaminants in their wake as their life span ends and only waste and by-products remain behind.

The recently released public accounts report for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017 says Manitoba carries a liability of $281 million to remediate 417 contaminated sites, the worst of them in the province’s north.  The report notes the environmental liability doesn’t include Manitoba Hydro storage sites, which are still being actively used.

The Sherridon mine, located some 100 kilometres from Flin Flon, closed down in 1951, but First Nations people in the area are still suffering the effects and are leery of eating fish and game they need to feed their families, MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said Wednesday.

“Local hunters and the leadership have strong concerns about the tailings they’ve seen in the water, and how it’s affected their hunting and fishing.  They’re seeing the damage it’s doing to the land, they’re seeing the discolouration of the water,” she said to the Winnipeg Free Press.

North Wilson talked earlier this month to Sherridon-area resident Floyd North, whom she described as a man who lives off the land.

“He’s not sure if he should be feeding that to his family. Floyd and local guides have found dead fish, and fish with tailings in their gills. The vegetation along the water is turning brown earlier,” she said.

Two of the province’s top remediation priorities have been closed for more than 50 years: the Gods Lake mine on the north shore of Elk Island closed in 1943, Sherridon stopped operations in 1951, yet from 1976 to 1998, the provincial government was still conducting environmental assessments. Preparation for remediation only really got going in the last decade.

Capped mine shafts and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste rock are all that remain of Lynn Lake’s nickel mine. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC )

“None of this will get cleaned up in my lifetime, and a lot of it cannot be cleaned up. What a legacy of a series of ignorant and negligent governments,” said Eva Pip, retired University of Winnipeg biologist and a renowned expert on water quality and the health of Lake Winnipeg.

The province says mining pumps $2 billion annually into the Manitoba economy and operates in a responsible and environmentally-sound manner — now.

However, there are 149 orphaned and abandoned mines first formally identified in 2000 for remediation “that were abandoned decades ago and continue to pose health and safety problems,” says the province. In some cases, the companies are part of the cleanup.

Pip said she’s been trying to get information for years on the plight of former mine sites and the lakes and rivers around them.

“I see that the number of sites has increased from the last time I requested information, when there were 300-plus identified sites. Many of them are abandoned, where the mining company has walked away, or no longer exists,” Pip said.

“Some are hazardous materials that were put in mine shafts that are now abandoned and flooded. Some are lakes where mining companies were allowed to dump chemical effluent for decades,” such as the Bernic Lake tantalum operation, she said.

Some are arsenic tailings fields going back to the 1930s, said Pip.

“There are also old, underground fuel storage tanks. Some are aboveground fuel storage tanks on northern First Nations reserves. Some are on permafrost. Some are municipal and park landfills that are became defunct when the province so ‘thoughtfully’ privatized landfills. Some are radioactive sites,” such as in Pinawa, Pip said. “There are many many others.”

Sustainable Development is the Progressive Conservative government’s environment ministry, but defers to the department of growth, enterprise and trade on remediating contaminated sites. Manitoba Hydro tracks its own sites.

“Manitoba Hydro does have a number of active sites (such as at Waverley Service Centre), where we dispose of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as per federal legislation to phase out the use PCBs by Dec. 31, 2025. As these continue to be active sites, we have no plans for remediation, as pointed out in the public accounts,” said spokesman Bruce Owen.

However, “It’s important to continue to clean up these sites so that future generations have a safe and sustainable environment. It’s very concerning if this government is letting budget cuts affect our environmental responsibilities,” said NDP environment critic Rob Altemeyer.

A Manitoba official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said remediations of the Ruttan site near Leaf Rapids (some 900 km north of Winnipeg) and the former Viridian Inc. mine in Lynn Lake (some 1,000 km north of the provincial capital) are well under way. The province spent $11.8 million on Ruttan last year, $228,000 on the Viridian mine.

The Leaf Rapids remediation cost $76 million between the province and former mine operator Viridian. But public accounts say the water-treatment plant will be needed for a long time yet.

“Manitoba owns a portable water-treatment plant that services the Lynn Lake site and is utilized occasionally to treat water from the site for discharge to bring the water quality up to federal standards,” the provincial official said.

When the Ruttan mine closed in 2002, Manitoba and Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd. agreed to share the responsibility, said the province.

“As part of the Ruttan remediation plan, a water-treatment plant was constructed and operates annually during non-freezing conditions to ensure that water discharged from site meets federal water quality guidelines. The requirement for water treatment is expected to decline over time as the remediation takes effect,” said the official.

Phytoforensics: Using Trees to Find Contamination

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently prepared on Fact Sheet on how phytoforensics can be used to screen for contamination prior to traditional sampling methods.  Phytoforensics is a low cost, rapid sampling method that collects tree-core samples from the tree trunk to map the extent of contamination below the ground.

By utilizing phytoforensics, environmental professionals can save the cost and time associated with traditional methods of subsurface investigation – drilling boreholes, installing monitoring wells.

Scientists at the Missouri Water Science Center were among the first to use phytoforensics for contamination screening prior to employing traditional sampling methods, to guide additional sampling, and to show the large cost savings associated with tree sampling compared to traditional methods, to guide additional sampling, and to show the large cost savings associated with tree sampling compared to traditional methods.

The advantages of phytoforensics include the following: quickly screen sites for subsurface contamination; cost- and time-effective approach that uses pre-existing trees; non-invasive method (no drill rigs or heavy equipment required); and representative of large subsurface volumes.

Phytoforensics testing involves the collection of a tree-core sample with necessary sampling equipment including an incremental borer, forceps, a sample vial, and gloves.  Samples are collected at about 3 feet (1 metre) above ground surface, placed into vials for subsequent laboratory analysis.

Similar to phytoforensics, phytoremediation is the field of looking to use plants to mitigate environmental pollutants and human exposures. As plants are efficient, key components in local and global water, carbon and energy cycles, they can influence pollutant transport and availability in many different ways.

Dr. Joel Burken, Missouri S&T professor of civil and environmental engineering, tests a tree in Rolla’s Schuman Park with then high school senior Amanda Holmes and S&T graduate student Matt Limmer. Photo by B.A. Rupert

In-Situ Remediation of Tetrachloroethylene and its Intermediates in Groundwater

Researchers from Tianjin University in China recently released results from a study that showed the results of the use of an anaerobic/aerobic permeable reactive barrier at removing tetrachloroethylene (also known as “perc”) and its intermediates in groundwater.

The anaerobic/aerobic permeable reactive barrier (PRB) system that was tested consisted of four different functional layers and was designed to remediate PCE-contaminated groundwater.  The first (oxygen capture) layer maintained the dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration at <1.35 mg/L in influent supplied to the second (anaerobic) layer.  The third (oxygen-releasing) layer maintained DO concentration at >11.3 mg/L within influent supplied to the fourth (aerobic) layer.  Results show that 99% of PCE was removed, mostly within the second (anaerobic) layer.  The toxic by-products TCE, DCE, and VC were further degraded by 98, 90, and 92%, respectively, in layer 4 (aerobic). The anaerobic/aerobic PRB thus could control both PCE and its degradation by-products.

Photo Credit: US EPA

Tetrachloroethylene is a manufactured chemical that is widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics and for metal-degreasing. It is also used to make other chemicals and is used in some consumer products.

Tetrachloroethylene is present in the subsurface at contaminated sites, often as a result of its inappropriate disposal and release from dry-cleaning and degreasing facilities or landfills.

Canadian Environmental Code of Practice for AST’s and UST’s

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) recently updated the Note to Reader of the Environmental Code of Practice for Aboveground and Underground Storage Tank Systems Containing Petroleum and Allied Petroleum Products to reflect Canadian Standards Association standard CAN/CSA-B837-14.  The new standard addresses collapsible fabric storage tanks.  Please click on the following link for details: http://www.ccme.ca/en/resources/contaminated_site_management/management.html

Ontario’s $25.8 Million in Funding Available For Low Carbon Innovations

The government of the province of Ontario, Canada recently announced $25.8 million has been allocated to the Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF) as a part of the province’s Climate Change Action Plan.  The funding will be used to support emerging, innovative technologies in areas such as alternative energy generation and conservation, new biofuels or bio-products, next-generation transportation or novel carbon capture and usage technologies.  Innovative remediation projects that can prove to be low-carbon innovations will be considered for funding.

Funding is available either from:

  • The Technology Demonstration stream, which aims to support the development and commercialization of innovative low carbon technologies through testing in real-world settings; or
  • The Technology Validation stream, which aims to fund proof-of-concept or prototype projects from eligible Ontario companies or academic organizations to help them get to market faster.

To be eligible for LCIF, projects must be conducted in Ontario and must show significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario.  Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan is key to its achievement of its goal of cutting greenhouse gas pollution to 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 percent below by 2030, and 80 percent below by 2050.

The deadline for the first round of funding was September 24th, 2017.  Notification on successful applications will be announced later this month.